Analysts: Activision to carry October sales

Trio of industry watchers project 50 to 60 percent software sales spike on Guitar Hero III; Wii predicted to regain hardware sales crown.

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Last week, Activision reported publisher-best revenues of $317.7 million, thanks in no small part to the debut of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Released October 28 for the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2, the Neversoft-developed rhythm game brought in a publisher-best $115 million in first-week sales. With industry stat-tracking group NPD expected to release its October sales this week, analysts anticipate a big month riding the little guitar game that could.

Making one of the more bullish estimates, Evan Wilson of Pacific Crest believes that the gaming industry spiked 62.5 percent year over year to $600 million in software sales. Noting that October 2006 presented a soft comparison, Wilson states that two of this year's heaviest hitters--GHIII and Microsoft's Halo 3--contributed the most brawn to October's large gains, with the Bungie-developed shooter shifting 840,000 additional units and GHIII moving 1.45 million copies. Wilson also stated that Valve's The Orange Box was a "huge release," selling 450,000 units and helping drive EA sales to about $116 million for the month, though it "was limited by its release on just the 360."

Both Jesse Divnich of prediction market simExchange and Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter believe the industry is in for less aggressive--though still impressive--growth for October. Divnich pegs October sales at $565 million, up 53 percent, whereas Pachter projects $555 million in software sales, an increase of 50 percent. After a mild uproar inspired by NPD's announcement last week that it would no longer report hardware sales, the firm has confirmed to GameSpot that it will indeed continue to report the figures after having been given the go-ahead from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

Likewise, Pachter and simExchange analyst Divnich took a crack at hardware sales for the month. Both analysts believe that Nintendo's console will regain the sales throne after the Xbox 360 usurped it in September. Pachter believes Microsoft's console will take a hit of some 200,000 units, landing at 325,000 for the month compared to the Wii's 450,000. Divnich believes it will be a tighter race, with the 360 moving 412,000 units to the Wii's 467,000.

With the October reporting period running through November 3, both analysts believe the PS3 will see a slight bump in sales on the release of the 40GB SKU, which took the field on November 2. Divnich believes the PS3 will shift 136,000 units, up from 119,000 last month, whereas Pachter sees sales of 125,000 for Sony's hardware.

Despite a minor upswing in PS3 hardware sales, Divnich also notes that PS3-exclusive games aren't faring well for Sony. "In previous months, highly anticipated PS3 exclusives Heavenly Sword and Lair both disappointed in sales," Divnich noted. "The same story emerges with the release of Ratchet & Clank with the prediction market only expecting 131,000 units, just shy of Heavenly Sword's 139,000 units in September. This comes as a huge disappointment, as critics have scored Ratchet & Clank much higher than Heavenly Sword."

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